Will Gluck is a talented writer, director, and producer who’s had a hand in several cult comedies. He has a distinct sense of humor that comes across in his latest project Easy A. It’s the second film that he’s directed following 2009′s Fired Up and it stars Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, and Patricia Clarkson. In the trailer the movie is promoted as a contemporary send up of the literary classic, The Scarlet Letter, but it’s actually much more than that.
Easy A is a comedy that uses every 80s cliche in the book to tell one teenage girl’s story. I recently got the chance to sit down with Gluck and speak to him about his influences as a filmmaker, his directing style, and his upcoming flick Friends with Benefits, which stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. It was a fun, entertaining, and eye opening interview that shed some light on a guy whose fresh perspective on comedy could make him the next “it” director of the decade.
How would you describe Easy A?
Will Gluck: It’s a teen comedy. It’s an 80s movie deconstructed because I love John Hughes movies.
How did you get your hands on the script?
WG: I was editing my last movie and Clint came over and asked me what I thought. I read it and I thought it was pretty good. And he goes, ‘yeah I might want to take a stab at this’. Then he goes, ‘I didn’t give it to you to direct, I just wanted to know if you liked it or not.’ [I said] ‘well it’s too late, you gave it to me, no backsies and I kinda went to work at it.
Can you talk about the auditioning and casting process?
WG: Luckily every actress wanted to play this part. A lot of them came in. They all auditioned in my office and I told everyone at the audition to go home and send me an iChat [a video chat], of any scene in the movie. This whole movie is her face, the actresses face. You can’t hide. You can do smoke n’ mirrors, you can cut some people together, but whoever played this part, you can’t hide. Emma, four hours later, e-mailed me her thing and it’s going to be in the DVD. I walked it over to Clint Culpepper, the head of the studio and I said, she’s the girl. You couldn’t disagree.
What is it about Emma that stands out?
WG: She’s like the best actress. It’s incredible watching her work. She can do emotion, sadness, a joke and apathy within one sentence. She just gets it. If you were to bet money on someone’s career, I’d bet my house on her. She’s gonna do everything, especially after this thing comes out. She can do anything she wants. She can do comedy. She can do Erin Brockovich. She’s just really good at it.
What’s your relationship like with Patricia Clarkson who plays Emma’s mom in the movie?
WG: We have our own little thing. Patty gets the whole thing. She enjoys it. I have a weird way of working. I sit right at the camera. There’s no monitor. I don’t cut at all. I just roll for 25-minutes. There’s a lot of try this, try that. A lot of it is just me on the camera, I just don’t cut it, because I think when you cut it, it just takes all the air of out everything. That allows all the actors to play and not have to think that this is the most important. You could have someone do a line 50-times in a row, I don’t care. It gives it a more relaxed atmosphere. Patty likes it.
Clarkson and Stanley Tucci had these great personalities in the film. They were infused with all this energy. How did you get that from them?
WG: Once I got Patty and Stanley, I added these scenes with them and none of the scenes moved the plot forward, they’re just showing who Emma is. My favorite scene is when Emma is sewing the A’s, she’s going through all this stuff and the music is pounding, and she’s literally screaming cutting herself. Kinda having like a freak out, an 18-year-old girl freak out, and Stanley comes in and makes a joke about it, it’s okay. He just looks at her and he says, ‘you okay buddy, which my dad says to me all the time. And she just looks up and says, ‘I got your support’, like he knows something is going on I’m behind you, like fly birdie, fly, and she goes, ‘yeah’. And then the movie takes off. They don’t tell her don’t do this, even the time when they go, ‘you’re dressing like a stripper for governors and athletes’, they never tell her to take off the dress, never. They’re just like, what are you doing?
Did you feel restricted about the rating of a PG-13 for this?
WG: No, not all. It’s the first thing I did. I really wanted it to be PG-13. I didn’t want it to be R. I wanted young people to see it. It’s a sexless sex comedy. There’s no sex in it. There’s no reason for this to be R just for language. I don’t like to use harsh language just to use harsh language. It’s not clever. I have more fun making up words like lemon-squeeze and butter-ball and melon bag because your head makes it much worse than it is. To me saying what’s a backwards melon-bag, that line right there, is a laugh as opposed to a blow-job. It’s too graphic, you know what it is. But a melon bag, it could be anything. I had to be going back to the MPAA for this movie. I remember at 8 in the morning they said to me, we know what a butter bean is, and I was like what? It’s this, and I’m like whoa, that’s disgusting, it’s not that, it’s made up. It’s kinda funny.
Is there a particular 80s movie that has informed your filmmaking style?
WG: The Breakfast Club and my favorite movie of all time and it’s embarrassing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. There’s also, if you watch the movie [Easy A] again, like 20 hidden John Hughes homages in the movie that I hid. If you get to see it again, you can kind of catch them.
What’s a good example of one?
WG: Emma’s shampoo horn, when she sings in the microphone, that’s Ferris. When Emma is playing the guitar and she saying, ‘I never had one lesson,’ with Patty Clarkson. There’s a lot of stuff like that. The panties. That’s Sixteen Candles — they are the exact same color. In every scene there’s a lot of stuff I put in like that.
Why is Ferris Bueller your favorite movie?
WG: Because Ferris Bueller was the first movie that I saw…when Ferris spoke to the camera it blew my mind. At the very end when the credits rolled he went ‘Go home. Go home now. What are you guys doing?’ My mind was blown because that’s when I realized as a kid that movies could be a two-way medium. It’s not just one way, it’s not just performing. Like these guys in the movie were conscious that people were watching the movie. And I remember vividly Trading Places with Eddie Murphy, and Mortimer was explaining to Eddie Murphy about pork bellies, and he was going ‘These are pork bellies William. Pork belly, like in bacon, like in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, and Eddie Murphy just goes and looks at the camera.’
So you liked movies that broke the fourth wall?
WG: Not necessarily just broke the fourth wall but just that the filmmakers were conscious of the fact that they were making a movie. I never break the fourth wall, so I create characters that are talking about that, they’re in a movie. So in Friends with Benefits there’s no breaking the fourth wall but they’re talking about movies like we’re talking about movies right now.
What can you tell me about Friends with Benefits?
WG: It’s basically like a 50s movie. A big Hepburn and Tracy movie, a two hander, big, big comedy, big huge budget in New York and L.A. I really wanted to do a big movie of two people kind of falling in love but conscious of the fact that their falling in love the whole time. At the very beginning she gets dumped, she gets dumped by Andy Samberg, Mila Kunis. And she’s walking with a friend drunk late at night in New York and goes, ‘I’m so sick of this Hollywood bullshit of true love,’ and she passes these posters for The Ugly Truth now of DVD and she goes ‘Fuck you Katherine Heigl. You’re a fucking liar!’ It’s in our life, this culture’s in our life and we think that’s the way it is. So, that’s this movie. That’s Friends with Benefits. It’s a girl who really wants true love and it doesn’t really work out that way.
Did you know Justin Timberlake before filming? Were you aware of his acting ability?
WG: No. I did not know him. I just thought he was really funny. Wait until The Social Network comes out. He’s an incredibly talented individual. In addition to his talent, his drive to succeed is unbelievable. All he wants to do is good. Once he trusts someone, he’s got zero ego. All he wants to do is do well and when you have that with a talent it’s pretty hard to fail. Him and Mila, and Woody Harrelson, and Richard Jerkins who plays his father, he’s incredible, he’s just an incredible actor. And you wait ’til The Social Network comes out, he’s going to blow you away.
What are your sets like? They sound fun and free.
WG: I think we have the luckiest job in the world. I think it’s so fun what we do. It’s ridiculous how much fun it is. I like to not forget that and not take anything seriously. We’re shooting 15 hour days, people get tired. I remember once in New York City we were shooting at the 65th floor at the beautiful top of the Med Life building and we had to walk the final four floors to get to the top. I remember one of the actors, I don’t want to say who it was, walked up and he was like, ‘I got to walk up four flights?’ and I was like, ‘how do you think this fucking equipment is going to get up here?’ So that actor, an hour later was helping carry the equipment. It’s just fun what we do. Keep it light especially in comedy. There’s a lot of slapping of everybody. A lot of stuff going on. Trying to keep it fun.
How excited are you that Easy A is opening at The Toronto Film Festival?
WG: It’s crazy isn’t it? I’m in the middle of shooting my movie so I literally have to fly out to Toronto and fly right back. I really believe that people are excited about this movie because their watching Emma Stone explode right now. This is her Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman moment in my opinion. I think people are excited about it because of her.
Easy A opens in theaters everywhere on September 17th.